Dar Williams

Photo courtesy of Amy DickersonDarWilliams_AmyDickerson2high

Singer-songwriter Dar Williams will be making an appearance this Saturday, Oct. 19th at 8 PM at Symphony Space in NY. Click up here or on the link below for tickets.

She actually had some time to speak to me via phone for a little bit! 🙂

CM: Is it a normal kind of thing for you to play in places that are mostly known for classical/symphonic music?

Dar: Actually, my experience with Symphony Space is that it has a lot of different kinds of music (many of my friends play there), but what you are saying touches upon, I think–Some of the best cultural venues have a lot of diversity in what they do, and they kind of have to feel around sometimes, to get the genre right, but they really work hard to make their space as diverse as possible, especially in New York, where you can play Uptown or Downtown to completely different crowds. People with really savvy directors know how to do different kinds of concerts, so it benefits them. I would say that my music is put side by side with classical venues on a regular basis, so I’m definitely in the singer-songwriter venue world, for the most part.

CM: But those two things, they seem to go hand-in-hand anyway, because I’ve noticed there’s a few classical performers that do work with singer-songwriters (Hilary Hahn, Simone Dinnerstein, etc.), and there are some musicians that understand that there’s a very common denominator with the two musics–a lot of classical music has folk music in it already.

Dar: Right! Now that is true, and the other thing is that folk music has some of its roots in classical as well, and also, in the romantic period of classical music, melody was extremely important, and I think in folk music, some people get away with not having really melodic stuff, but melody goes a long way, and a line of melody is equally revered in folk music as well as classical music. When I go to classical concerts or folk concerts, I feel like I’m showing up to have a similar experience–You want it to sort of lift you in a certain way that you might not want if you’re just going to hear some headbangers. There’s some stuff I go to to forget my life rather to remember things, so this is more the kind of music where you want to remember something.

CM: Have you ever played with a classical musician in a collaborative way?

Dar: Yes! My brother-in-law is the concert master for the Boston Pops Esplanade, and he’s the real deal. He actually arranged my music for the quintet that he plays with, with my sister-in-law, so I played with them, and I played with the symphony this past June in Massachusetts, and that was a lot of fun! It was enormous, because it really puts your songs to the test, to have that kind of arrangement.
I have to say, every classical musician I’ve ever worked with has done everything to bring all of their schooling together with my poetry, to make it an easy situation for me. As someone who hasn’t trained in music, I’m very lucky to be surrounded by such accommodating musicians who love me warts and all, and find beautiful things, and I’m sure that other musicians have found that in other singer-songwriters too.

My Lagan Love (with IBIS Chamber Music)

CM: It IS truly incredible to hear the 2 genres working live on stage.

Dar: I think that, in this world, where live performance is really THE way of making a living–Right now, because David Byrne just wrote this piece about what’s going on with streaming music, it’s hard because artists of my stature (meaning “not big stars”) sound like they are whining when complaining about it. It sounds like I’m unhappy with where my career is, but really, this streaming phenomenon puts really very little, if any, money into the artists pockets, and there’s something really weird going on, because everybody’s pretending that we’re still going to have bands in tour buses, and make lots of music, and unless the model changes, there won’t be anymore. So, musicians are getting really creative about how they present themselves, because that’s what we are–Creative! [laughing]

I was just up in Canada, where there is a lot of government support of the arts, and you see a lot of huge collaborations, huge ones, ambitious ones, but in the US, it’s sort of born out of “Let’s throw this at the wall”. We’re just ships out on the sea, at this point, and all we have is the rudder of what we love, and so, musicians are seeking each other out and doing lots of interesting things.

CM: I like your version of “Comfortably Numb”!

Dar: Thank you! I was working with some musicians, and they just said “Why not?”, and I said “Oh Pink Floyd! I’m such a fan, I love this song so much”, and they said “Well, record it! Record it!”, and, that’s so nice when the people surrounding you turn your “no” into a “yes” instead of a “yes” into a “no”!

Comfortably Numb (w/Ani DiFranco)

CM: Can you talk about the clip for “As Cool As I Am”?

Dar: Yes, that was awesome! That was put together by the owner of my record company, who got involved with a website called The Message Is, and it was absolutely his idea, and their office put the video together. I was thrilled, I was so grateful, they did a beautiful job!

CM: Because I’d been following these stories in the news about the shutting down of abortion clinics and the bizarre laws that some states want to implement towards women and their reproductive rights. Even though the clip is from over a year ago, this song feels very relevant still today.

Dar: It’s unbelievable! I sort of liken it to the thrashing of a dinosaur. Out in the world, women have more power–We’re not far enough yet, but there’s so many more openly gay people in every state now as well, the world is a lot browner than it used to be, and there’s much more diversity on every level. I was looking over somebody’s shoulder, and they were watching The Internship (Owen Wilson film), and to me, I thought it was like an education about not hearing the word. About two googly white guys trying to find their way in a world where people from other countries, women, people who are short, wear glasses–This mix of people that can afford to marginalize were now in charge, and they were sort of being introduced to this new world where the tall white guys aren’t necessarily in charge anymore, they were sort of easing them into this realization that their bosses might be women, or their bosses might be from India. And I thought it was like a little primer for what the future is going to be like.

As Cool As I Am (w/Gary Louris; video created for TheMessageIs.com)

Click here for tickets/info on An Evening with Dar Williams at Symphony Space

Dar Williams


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